Mum's 'crappy' blog a surprise success story

A passion for blogging... Amber Dusick with her two sons.
A passion for blogging... Amber Dusick with her two sons. 

She's an artist whose decidedly lo-fi blog has captured thousands of international fans in five short months.

Parenting. Illustrated With Crappy Pictures™ is laugh-out-loud-and-share-with-your-friends funny. Its creator, Amber Dusick, has carved out a clever niche between the glossy, cookie-baking uber mummy blogs and the bad mother confessionals, both of which have spawned rapidly through the blogosphere over the last five years.

Based in a "happy yellow house" in Southern California, Dusick lives with her husband, "two wonderful little boys and two naughty black cats."  

"The house is usually messy on the inside but we're all okay with that," she says. "Well, except the cats. They always nag us to take out the trash.  "

The blog features postcards from the daily parenting grind, illustrated with mouse-drawn cartoons.

From the laws of parenting such as the presence of a video camera immediately eradicating any talent your kids were just demonstrating, to the reality of eating in a nice restaurant with kids – it’s all refreshingly honest.

I had to ask her - is parenthood what she expected?

 “I think I had a hazy idea of what it would be like and I wasn't too far off, but the intensity in real life is much greater than imagined.  Both good and bad.  I knew I would love my kids, but I really didn't anticipate the extreme "throw yourself in front of a bus to save your child" level of love and protection. I also knew there would be frustrating stuff but I didn't anticipate the extreme "I want to hide in the bathroom" level of crazy-making that it can be at times,” she says.

 Dusick has been working for herself since 2004, creating a number of online craft businesses, MakeBabyStuff to name one.  She had a natural wooden toy business called woodmouse but is taking a break.  

“I do ceramics. I sew. I quilt. I like to make stuff. Lots of stuff.  Except I don't knit. That about sums it up!” she says.

The Crappy Pictures blog came about after Dusick wrote her second illustrated post on her personal blog in June this year.  The post brought in more traffic than she had ever received in five years of blogging.  

“My personal blog has always just been more of an online journal, a mixture of random things, so I wanted a dedicated space for the illustrated posts. I didn't want people to have to sit through my posts on crafting if all they really wanted to read were the comedic, illustrated ones. It made sense to carve out a whole new space for it,” she says.

Dusick’s facebook page now features more than 17,000 fans. Is she surprised at the immediate success of her newest site?

 “Yes. Shocked. I really never intended for this to become a "thing" that I do. I wrote the first one just to vent to my current blog subscribers...which was all of about 100 people after five years of blogging.  I thought it would be a silly series on my personal blog, that I'd do a handful of them and that would be the end of it.”

As is so often the case, the one that came naturally turned out to be the winner.

“Of all my various online and creative endeavors, this is the one thing I didn't have any intentions for when I started, other than that I was just having fun,” she says. “Which I realise now is some kind of secret magic formula.”

So many successful mummy blogs at the moment are beautifully designed, with stunning photography (see Dooce, Kelle Hampton, Pioneer Woman). Crappy Pictures is the opposite of that.  Was it a deliberate attempt to do something different on Dusick’s part?

“I wish I could say I had lofty intentions to go against the grain or something. But really, I was just playing around and having fun.  The very first post I made was while I was laying in bed in the dark with a baby nursing next to me. I had my laptop right there, as usual. Drawing quality cartoons on paper in the dark wasn't going to happen.  I needed something quick and accessible so the trackpad on my laptop was an obvious choice at that moment,” she admits.

Although Crappy Pictures has a laugh at the ridiculous moments of parenting, it’s no ‘misery mumoir’, to use a term coined by writer Samantha Selinger-Morris.

Dusick has revealed in other interviews that she doesn’t use daycare or nannies, and feels she has a commitment to raise them and be at home with them. Any business will take second priority. So just how does she have the time for all of her online and artistic ventures?

“I do have help. My mother-in-law comes every week for a few hours. My husband watches the kids another few hours here and there. I often am working after the kids are asleep into the wee hours of the night. The way I manage it is that every free moment I get it to myself is spent working.  But this is how I want it because I love what I do.”

But with monetisation of personal blogs a pipe dream for most bloggers, success is a double-edged sword.

“With the growth of Crappy Pictures, I've been spending 100% of my "work time" on that blog which means all the other actual paying gigs have fallen behind. I'm trying not to stress out about this. Trying,” she admits.    

 Of course, if the site’s popularity continues, a Crappy Pictures book deal could be on the cards.

“That would be great, fingers crossed that it will happen eventually,” says Dusick.

Read more about Amber Dusick at her personal blog, Amber Dusick.com